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Of her whose wondrous beauty it portrayed.
“ Ah ! signor, it was sad—in truth most sad !”
The aged man replied, and shook his head;
And as his white locks waved around a brow,
On which rude time a thousand furrows wrought,
He looked like the old genius of the place,
Lamenting o'er its splendour's quick decay,
And thinking he had faded scarce as fast.
“ The lady was of this most ancient house,
Renown'u for beauty, and Francesca named,
Sole child of him, whom the Venetian state
Sent her ambassador to papal Rome.
She loved, was loved—and with that passion wild,
Signor-you know not such in your cold clime;
But which with us, beneath our genial sun,
Quick ripens, ay, ere reason grows mature
To check its giant strides in youthful hearts.
The fair Francesca dwelt at Venice-here
Within this very palace, where we stand,
In charge of one (her mother early died)
Who long had filled to her a mother's place.
This was a dame of high and ancient blood,
By fortune slighted—and in place of wealth
Dowered with most scanty pittance; so her child,
With her, beneath Foscari's princely roof
Had found a home.
The young Teresa was
Self-willed as fair—she brooked no calm restraint,
And often filled her anxious mother's breast
With dim prophetic fears of coming days.
The noble Julio, Conradino's lord,
The plighted husband of Foscari's child,
Reluctantly had left his lady love,
And joined her father's embassy at Rome;
While she, impatient, fondly counted o'er
Each day that brought her nearer to the time
Fixer for their home return. You know how maids
Pine, and say prayers, and think ’twill never come.-
Oft would the fair Francesca pensive gaze
On the gold ring, pledge of the nuptial one,
Placed on her finger by the noble youth
Ere he departed ; often would she dwell
Upon the honied words, and as sweet looks
That he, her first, her only love, her lord,
Had lavished on her, with that parting gift.
'Twas in such hours the portrait that you see
Was painted, and the cunning artist gave
The pensive character her beauty wore,
Absent from him who ruled her virgin heart.
Affairs of import at imperial Rome,
Caused that Foscari should consult the Doge
Of Venice; and it chanced-ah! envious fate!
That the kind father, thinking of his child
Pining in absence, sent young Julio home
Upon this mission to his Sovereign.
With Love's own haste, fair Venice soon he reach'd,
And sought this palace, though the midnight hour
Had tolld; but as his gondola drew near
Yon balcony, he saw, O! baleful sight!
A cavalier descend, by twisted ropes,
Down from the chamber of his promised wife,
While she the casement closed, and waved her hand
Fondly to him who went. The sight was death.
With frantic speed he follow'd in the track-
What feet have wings to 'scape from raging love!
He near'd him—he came close-0 saints ! 'twas one
Who formerly had sought Francesca's hand.
The first word was a challenge. When the other
Tried but to speak, Julio sprang forth and struck
The Cavalier, who, madden'd by the blow,
Drew instantly his rapier, thrice it glanced
In the pale moonlight, then through Julio's heart,
Who, groaning, fell to earth a bleeding corse.
Soon as Francesca heard the fatal tale
Her reason fled, and ere a month had pass’d,
She slept beside her mother in the tomb.
Alas! how fate ordains, and man must grieve!
The young Teresa 'twas that Julio saw
The casement close, and hers the gay gallant
Whose presence madden'd him with jealous rage;
For, in Francesca's absence-she had gone
To her casino on the Brenta's banks,
With her, Teresa's mother-by sad chance,
That erring girl within her chamber slept;
For there—you see the balcony's but low-
Her guilty lover nightly might ascend.
Within a convent she conceal'd her shame,
And, by long years of penitence, atoned
For all the ills she wrought. Foscari's lord
Survived not long his lovely daughter's loss;
And yonder beauteous picture now is left.
To tell of one so young, so fair, so doomed.”
“Luff, you swabber, and - Luff, Joe, can't you, and give those poor devils a chance, out on the yard-arm there, trying to reef that fore-top sail. Do you want to cant them ? and going five knots, close hauled, with this swell? Luff, I say! Handsomely, my sons," continued the skipper, turning his head from the boy at the helm, and looking forward, and upward at the four poor men who were struggling over the yard, their heels higher than their heads, to claw in the volume of a wet straining foretop sail, which now fluttered and flapped, and then again heavily blew out, with a crack as though to burst from the bolt ropes, as the vessel's head came up or fell off from the blast. “ Handsomely, my sons; you'll have a touch up in the wind presently, There, now! Now's
time-it lifts-in with it, rouse that weather earing well out. That's your sort! There, come in off the yard—in, every man of ye! Fore-top sail halliards—hoist away again—brace up sharp, and sheet home—belay, belay-a small pull more of that bow-line. There she walks—no near, Joe!”
Sky is dirty to windward, Joe,” continued the skipper, in a softer tone, as, with a lee leg out, he walked three steps aft; “and an angry sunset we've had; shrouds to the sun, and mare's tails, and that sort of a salmon-streak on the lower line, that means no good, more particularly over a black breasting horizon, with teeth like a saw. An indifferent wild night we are like to have of it!"
And an indifferent wild night sure enough it was; as indifferent perhaps as ever befell a well found brig, beating up against a snorting north-wester, through that narrow passage between the Darkholm flats and the desolate and dangerous islands which cluster round that dreary coast. Low did she stoop, and heavily did she labour, through those boiling surges, beneath which many a stout ship has found its grave, and on which many a stout heart has toiled, bravely and long, after even hope itself has died within it, ay, and of which many a tender heart too has mused, almost to breaking, when the night winds have piped around the home of him who was at sea.
“Up, my lads, watch and idlers—clear away the foretop mast stay sail—man the jib, down haul – haul down, and hoist away. Light up once more, top men,-close reef, forward there ! A second reef in that main-top sail ! Come, be alive! abaft there; overhaul the peak and main halliards, and lower away that fore and aft main sail. We must get the try sail upon her. Forward ! rouse that weather back stay well up; we mustn't have the top mast by the board—we'll carry on her, mate, as long as she'll stand it. By the powers, we must have no missing stays now! Look out for the light on the Longsands! Thick as mustard, mate !"
The mate went forward : a dense fog had risen to windward. In vain did the skipper, spreading his hand between the binacle lamp and his eyes, strain his much-used sight across the black heaving waters, to catch one confirming glimpse of the distant light-house.
“ It must be there, or somewhere there, any how; but we mustn't wait to run ashore because we can't see how it